Much of our study into efficacy and safety has focused on the literature generated by aromatherapy researchers. Aromatherapists have been using essential oils (and therefore terpenes) in a medical setting for about 100 years. And we can't leave out folk medicine, where the same ingredients have been used safely since the dawn of civilization.
Essential Oils have diverse applications. They are used to change a mood, to aid digestion, to fortify the body's stress response, to reduce inflammation, to reduce nausea, to relax the body, and to stimulate and aid the immune system. They are considered very safe.
Each of the essential oils used to make Pan's Ink® has been used as a flavor additive in cigarette and tobacco preparations over the years. And the terpenes utilized in Pan's Ink® are already found in your smoking herb in various concentrations. You'll find terpenes as the active ingredient in products like Vick's Vaporub, cough drops, as flavoring in teas, and as natural flavoring in foods. Menthol, a terpene found in mint essential oils, is the most widely used cigarette flavor enhancer.
What Are Terpenoids? = Aromatic Tincture
Terpenoids, or terpenes, are what you can smell in plant material. They are what makes pine trees smell like pine, gives lavender its luscious aroma, and some plants can even smell like rotting flesh to attract it’s food source. Eucalyptus is another example whose terpenes are used in many products. We all know about Vick’s Vapor Rub! Essentially the essential oils of the plant.
What are Cannabinoids?
The term cannabinoids refers to a group of substances that are related to secondary plant compounds, like cannabidiol (CBD), that interact either directly or indirectly with the cannabinoid receptors that naturally occur throughout our body. Cannabinoid receptors are at their highest density in the nervous and immune systems.
The important aspect to grasp is that when it comes down to it, one cannot simply think of terpenes and cannabinoids as individual and unique components. One must take into account the synergistic effect that they have when they are found together.
The following information has been put together by Jack Turner of Pan’s Ink, a specialty tinctures organization that really understands how terpenes work, and especially how they work in combination with cannabinoids.
Terpenes, or Terpenoids, are volatile, aromatic phytochemicals which make up the essential oil of a variety of aromatic plants, herbs, and roots. Terpenes are what give flowers and herbs their distinctive, complex odors. There are thousands of unique terpene molecules that have been identified by scientists. And of course, different herbs have different terpenes, although certain terpenes are shared among many plants, such as alpha-Pinene in the various coniferous trees and d-Limonene in citrus peels. Drawings of terpene molecules look similar to drawings of cannabinoid molecules, only they are less complex. Like the cannabinoids, the terpenoids have distinct biological properties when ingested or inhaled. And it is these biological properties, when combined with the biological properties of the cannabinoids present, which lead to the specific effects you feel when smoking your medical cannabis.
alpha-Pinene - alpha-Pinene is our first terpene under consideration. alpha-Pinene is the most abundant terpene in nature. Found in all coniferous trees (like pine), herbs and spices, and the cannabis flower, alpha-Pinene smells sharp, bitter, and, well, piney. alpha-Pinene has anti-inflammatory properties that synergize with the anti-inflammatory properties of CBD. Furthermore, it improves short term memory—a scarce resource for a regular smoker—by inhibiting the enzyme Acetyl cholinesterase, which plays a role in memory formation. alpha-Pinene is also a bronchodilator, meaning it opens up the airways in your chest. This is helpful for asthmatics and anybody with restricted air flow into their lungs. Finally, alpha-Pinene has anti-microbial properties that may help to reduce infections—especially of the lungs and bronchial tract.
d-Limonene - d-Limonene is found in the peels of lemons, oranges, grapefruit, and all citrus fruit, as well as in the cannabis flower. d-Limonene gives them their distinctly citrusy scents. d-Limonene has several useful properties. It has been shown to have anti-depressant qualities in humans and we know that it acts at the serotonin receptor in mice. d-Limonene also has anti-anxiety properties, likely due to serotonin receptor interaction. These effects synergize with and boost the properties of the cannabinoid CBD and balance out the anxiety caused by THC. d-Limonene has been shown to stimulate the immune system and it has anti-cancer properties, also synergistic with CBD. It may be useful for gastro-esophageal reflux disease when combined with THC.
beta-Myrcene - beta-Myrcene is a terpene that smells of citrus, chocolate, and fruit, and is found abundantly in the hops flower, the cannabis flower, in herbs like lemongrass and in gums like frankincense. It synergizes with CBD to block inflammation in addition to reducing pain in conjunction with both CBD and THC. When combined with THC, it is sedating and relaxing. Myrcene is the most abundant terpene in cannabis and often makes up half of the essential oil of the buds you smoke.
Linalool, a terpene alcohol, is a part of the scent of many flowers. Found especially in lavender, clary sage, rosewood, and petitgrain, linalool is sharp, flowery, and sweet. Linalool possesses many useful qualities. Combined with CBD, linalool helps reduce anxiety. With THC, it is sedating. Linalool may act through modifying GABA neurotransmission behavior, which would make sense given its anxiolytic and sedating properties. Additionally, linalool has been shown to relieve pain when administered to mice. Linalool is found in cannabis strains like lavender haze and lavender kush.
beta-Caryophyllene - beta-Caryophyllene makes up the flavor (but not the spiciness!) of black pepper. It is found abundantly in cannabis leaves, black pepper, cloves, and even echinacea. beta-Caryophyllene is anti-inflammatory (with CBD) and sedating (with THC). Furthermore, it is a full agonist at the CB2 receptor which allows it to fight inflammation and pain from a second angle. beta-Caryophyllene is found in small-to-moderate amounts in most smoked cannabis.
When you start digging deeper into cannabis medicine, you begin to realize how complicated it can be, and you also realize why medicines like MarinolTM (a patented synthetic pharmaceutical) don’t really do it for patients—each individual component by itself is not as powerful as the entourage of components you get when you inhale or ingest whole plant extracts.
Russo, Ethan B. “Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects.” British Journal of Pharmacology (2011). 1344 – 1364.